Jakub Voracek Emerging as Critical Role Player for Flyers

Jakub Voracek Emerging as Critical Role Player for Flyers

Before training camp got underway, before the lockout even
started, when we were penciling in names for who might replace Jaromir Jagr on
the Flyers’ top line, Jakub Voracek seemed a favorite. It’s been a long time
coming, but when Voracek was paired with captain Claude Giroux on Monday, the
two of them showcased why many observers thought it to be a logical fit.

Voracek assisted on Philadelphia’s first four goals –
including a near hat trick for Giroux – during a 7-0 dismantling of the New
York Islanders, setting a single-game career high in points in the process.
After getting off to something of a slow start, Voracek has surged out to the
club lead in points with 15.

Not surprisingly, Peter Laviolette is expected to stick with
the same combinations
for Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh, opting to cease
the juggling act with his lines coming off the Flyers’ most complete effort of
the season. That means Voracek, Giroux, and Matt Read will have their chance for
an encore against one of the NHL’s best teams to this point.

Obviously the Isles thrashing was just one game, coming
against one of the league’s most porous defenses at that, so we don’t want to
get too far ahead of ourselves on what type of production we can expect.
Then again, Voracek always seemed like he could be a good fit with G.

Right as we were beginning to wonder how much the Flyers and
Giroux missed Jagr, Voracek demonstrated why so many thought he could replace
some of that production. While Voracek is not to be confused with one of the
greatest to ever play the game – so this is pretty much the furthest thing from
a direct comparison – he does possess some similar skills, namely his speed through
the neutral zone and strength on the puck.

What has Giroux’s line lacked early this season? Often times
they’ve experienced some difficulty mounting and sustaining an attack – or skating
the puck into enemy territory and then sustaining that pressure. In a word, Giroux’s
line has lacked Jagr, or at least a Jagr-like presence.

Voracek looks like the player on the roster best suited to
fill that role, which he built a very strong case for on Monday. It doesn’t hurt
he has a keen eye with the biscuit, either – his 12 helpers also tops on the
club – and at 49 points he was one of the Flyers' leading scorers last season,
tied for fourth with Danny Briere and Wayne Simmonds.

For now it’s a no-brainer. Voracek will stick with Giroux
and see his ice time increase as long as the production continues, which it has been
no matter who he’s been paired with of late. Previously, he and Brayden Schenn
had been developing some chemistry, and Voracek now has 12 points in his last
nine tilts, including three multi-point games.

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Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

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Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

Temple (9-3) at No. 19 Navy (9-2)
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Saturday, noon, ABC

It would have been hard to picture Temple in the American Athletic Conference championship game after the Owls’ first game of the season, a 28-13 loss to Army.

But that’s exactly where they are three months later, as Temple will take on No. 19 Navy in the conference championship game Saturday.

The Owls and Midshipmen have both been handling opponents as of late. Temple’s won its last four games by at least three touchdowns, while Navy has outscored opponents 141-62 in its past two games.

Let’s take a look at how one of the country’s top offenses and one of the country’s top defenses match up.

Scouting Temple
The Owls' defense seems to get better every week. Temple ranks No. 3 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. The only two teams that rank higher than the Owls in both categories are Alabama and Michigan.

Teams haven’t scored more than 13 points against the Owls in their last four games, and Temple is outscoring opponents 123-23 during that stretch.

Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick was named a first team all-conference selection earlier this week. He leads the FBS in tackles for loss. Redshirt-senior Praise Martin-Oguike is coming off one of his best games of the season last week against East Carolina, in which he had two sacks, including a forced fumble. He has seven sacks this season.

On offense, Temple’s goal this week will be to sustain drives and keep Navy’s offense off the field. The Owls are currently No. 5 in the FBS in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes per game.

Earlier in the week, coach Matt Rhule said senior quarterback Phillip Walker was questionable for Saturday’s game. Walker will likely play, but the Owls might be without one of their top offensive weapons.

Rhule said sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead is doubtful. Armstead has 842 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Scouting Navy
The Midshipmen have one of the simplest — yet at that same time one of the best — offenses in the country. Navy ranks No. 2 in rushing yards at 342 yards per game.

Quarterback Will Worth runs the triple option for Navy. He has 2,544 total yards of offense and 33 total touchdowns. He’s passed for 1,363 yards and rushed for 1,181 more.  Worth has a touchdown in 11 straight games.

Worth has attempted 258 rushes compared to 115 passing attempts. Four other Navy players have at least 40 rushing attempts this season.

Senior wide receiver Jamir Tillman is the Midshipmen’s best receiving threat. The 6-foot-4 wideout has 32 catches for 533 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy’s defense hasn’t been quite as elite as its offense. The Midshipmen have allowed 30 or more points in four of their last five games.

The Midshipmen are allowing 265 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 313 yards and three touchdowns in their last three contests.

Storyline to watch: Can Temple find a way to stop the triple option?
The last time these two teams played was in 2014, when Navy ran for 487 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win against the Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s most recent matchup against the triple option was when it lost to Army in its season opener. The Black Knights ran for 329 yards and four touchdowns. With only a week to prepare, Temple will have to find a way to cure its option woes if it wants a chance to win Saturday.

What’s at stake?
The Owls have only won one other conference championship in program history, when they won the Mid-Atlantic Conference in 1967. A win would also give Temple its third 10-win season in program history. If Western Michigan loses Friday night, Temple also puts itself in contention for a spot in the Cotton Bowl with a win.

Prediction
Temple has to figure out this option thing at some point, right? The Owls’ ability to convert on third down and sustain long drives will help slow Navy's offense. This one will most likely come down to who has the ball last, but the Owls are a little bit more well-rounded, so they get the edge. Temple 31, Navy 28